Posted by: Botolff | January 31, 2009

The Fig of Control

Have you ever wondered what kind of fruit was on the tree/bush/vine of the knowledge of good and evil?  Maybe it was a kumquat.  I’m going with a fig, because those seem to be pretty popular in that part of the world; and because I’d be tempted too if it was a fig.  Nabisco made newtons out of those right?  Yum. 

Seriously though, I wonder what it was like for Adam and Eve to cross over from innocent to ashamed.  Oh wait, I know what it’s like.  I do it all the time.  Although never as innocent as they were, and maybe never as ashamed as they were, I know the feeling.  That moment when I’m too scared, angry or arrogant to let go of control and surrender something of the outcome of an uncomfortable situation.  Instead, I decide to try and play God, just like Adam and Eve.  I still remember the day, pre-911, when I was at the security check station at LAX leading a team of college students back from China, and the security guard told me that a number of carry-ons didn’t fit the regulations.  We were told at the front desk everything would be fine.  Her and I tussled back and forth until one point when I told her I was tired of her attitude and those things had better be in the overhead compartment when we took off.  She told me not only weren’t those items going to be in the cabin of the plane, I may not be either.  Hmm…it all went on as checked luggage… and I later apologized.  

I’ve come to believe that Adam and Eve’s sin wasn’t in the eating of the fig.  It was in their personal final resignation that God didn’t have their best interest in mind, he/she wasn’t trustworthy and they MUST take it upon themselves to be in control of their own lives.  The fig was the result of that resignation.  And by eating it, they attempted to become like God so they could try and be in charge.

Oh, how sad…and how incredibly dangerous.  Because they, like we, don’t have the capacity to hold or diffuse all the shame that comes with the knowledge of good and evil.  That’s why we run (flight), hide, lie, blame (fight), and ultimately murder.  Because those are the ways that we think we will be able to control an uncontrollable and thoroughly mysterious God and life.  We’re scared and we’re furious.  We aren’t good at ordering our world.  We are good at and called to bring some order to our world, but we’re horrible at being in charge.  It’s not our job.  But it is our temptation, and often our sin.

I raged for months after my termination.  I still rage some days.  Day after day after day of waking up in cold sweats immediately infuriated at the first face (and they were always faces of the pastor, his wife or the church leaders) that popped into my head.  Even more infuriated that they were mad that I was angry for them lying about me, to me, to the students I worked with, and the congregation I gave my heart to; and for throwing me down the flight of stairs out the front doors of the church.  No, they didn’t physically do the last part; but I can tell you that I would have preferred that over the mental/emotional manipulation and abuse that I and others had to endure under the tyranny of a woman and leadership that demanded to be God in the face of situations out of their control.  I am still furious, and it feels good to finally get some of the truth of the trauma out of my body.  And I’m broken hearted that the truth is so dark.

Augustine said, “One who shows patience prefers to endure evil so as not to commit it, rather than to commit evil so as not to endure it.”  Through my teenage years I grew up in a church where it was a sin to dance, go to a movie theater, play cards with face cards, sing solos on a cordless mic and wear sandals in the church sanctuary with no socks.  No kidding.  I have come to believe that those things weren’t the sin.  The sin was the control that the leadership demanded to have so they could believe they were right.  It seems to me that in many regards, many of our churches aren’t any different today.  We just mock the idiocy of the previous rulebook, and use our own to do it with.  So, who or what is really in control when fear, contempt, manipulation, deception, abuse, abandonment, confusion and betrayal are the prevailing themes of the moment or the situation?  That doesn’t sound like Jesus to me.  I think we in many regards have just joined the ranks of the other team in order to save ourselves from being lavished on by a loving and ultimately trustworthy God, because we don’t believe it’s possible he/she is that good.  I certainly don’t believe it many days.  My name is Adam…what’s yours?


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